- Short 5 km roundtrip alpine hike with rewarding views
- Moderate trail with steep switchbacks
- Trail usually opens in the end of June / early July, depending on snowpack
One of the most rewarding hikes in the Canadian Rockies, Parker Ridge Trail delivers some of the best glacier views surrounded by giant peaks, for a relatively small amount of effort.
The Parker Ridge Trail is located in northern Banff National Park on the scenic Icefields Parkway. The parking area isn’t that big and can fill up on busy summer days. The parking area and trail are well sign-posted, if you are driving from Banff townsite Parker Ridge is past the ‘Big Bend’ by Panther Falls.
Parker Ridge Trail
The ridge is named after Herschel Clifford Parker, an American adventurer and mountaineer who in the late 1980’s was surveying the area. He had a passion for the Continental Divide; the mountainous hydrological divide that separate the watersheds that drain into the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
The trail is a fairly short but steep ascent, with well graded switchbacks. Less experienced hikers may consider it a moderate to hard hike. If you find it all challenging simply take your time and enjoy the view. Once you arrive at what feels like the top, make sure to keep going to the actual summit to get the full view of the glacier flow, and the glacier lake below.
By far the best part of the Parker Ridge hike is the opportunity to witness the splendour and magnitude of the Saskatchewan Glacier. This glacier is the largest outflow, or ‘toe’ of the Columbia Icefields. The Saskatchewan Glacier rests on the Continental Divide, it is around 13 km long and covers approximately 30 square km.
It can be chilly at the top of the ridge but it is another world up there in the alpine, above the treeline. If you visit the right time of year you might be lucky enough to see some high altitude wildflowers.
Top 3 Tips
- Try and do this hike on a clear day to ensure you get the best views.
- Be prepared for any weather, it’s not unusual for it to snow here, even in the middle of summer.
- Go beyond! Spend some time appreciating and enjoying the area at the top of the ridge.